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MRU tuition will likely go up but more needed to make up budget shortfall

Click to play video: 'Post-secondary budget fallout' Post-secondary budget fallout
Oct. 26: Alberta universities and colleges are bracing themselves for the fallout of this week's provincial budget. Some post-secondary institutions say the funding slash is "significant.” Julia Wong reports – Oct 26, 2019

Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary held a town hall meeting Thursday morning to discuss the budget for the remainder of this school year as well as fiscal plans for the 2020/21 year in light of the 2019 Alberta budget.

MRU president and vice-chancellor Timothy Rahilly told the crowd at the Bella Concert Hall this past week has been a difficult one.

Rahilly said he is grateful the Alberta government opted for a differential cut with regards to the in-year cut, meaning MRU will face a 1.3-per cent cut for the remainder of this year as opposed to deeper cuts that some other post-secondary institutions are dealing with.

READ MORE: Alberta budget 2019 includes cuts to cities, civil servants, universities

MRU is also a part of an “across-the-sector cut” to infrastructure/maintenance programs, which begins next year. In total, Rahilly explained, “the gap that we need to close this year is around $5.7 million on a $240-million operating budget.”

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“I want to be abundantly clear that as we close this (current budget) gap, that everything is on the table,” Rahily said.

“We have an opportunity to examine how we do things and how we can make some positive changes but we have to look at everything.”

The Alberta government recently lifted a five-year freeze on tuition hikes for post-secondary institutions in the province, allowing for a seven-per cent increase in each of the next three years. MRU was already planning on implementing a two-per cent inflationary increase for the next few years before the October provincial budget was released.

Click to play video: 'How does the Alberta budget impact you?' How does the Alberta budget impact you?
How does the Alberta budget impact you? – Oct 25, 2019

Rahilly said in light of the shortfalls, it is safe to say that tuition will go up but that potential increases to tuition will not be enough.

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The MRU president said according to the provincial government, Alberta has the lowest average tuition in Canada outside of Quebec.

MRU announced earlier in the week it has eliminated 10 current positions and will not fill 15 vacant positions. He said Thursday he expects more jobs will be lost next year.

READ MORE: 10 jobs lost, 2 departments merged as Mount Royal University grapples with budget

According to Rahilly 70 per cent of MRU expenses come from salaries and benefits.

Post-secondary schools in Alberta are also looking at a freeze on new capital projects. The only refurbishing and/or renovation projects that were approved by the provincial government were ones that were already underway.

MRU vice-president of finance and administration, Annalise Van Ham, said that meant their request for funding to refurbish and/or renovate the old conservatory and the old library were denied for the upcoming year.

With files from Blake Lough

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